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The Opening Kickoff: The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation
     

The Opening Kickoff: The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation

by Dave Revsine
 

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A New York Times Bestseller and Boston Globe Bestseller!

It’s America’s most popular sport, played by thousands, watched by millions, and generating billions in revenues every year. It’s also America’s most controversial sport, haunted by the specter of life-threatening injuries and plagued by scandal, even among its most venerable

Overview

A New York Times Bestseller and Boston Globe Bestseller!

It’s America’s most popular sport, played by thousands, watched by millions, and generating billions in revenues every year. It’s also America’s most controversial sport, haunted by the specter of life-threatening injuries and plagued by scandal, even among its most venerable personalities and institutions. At the college level, we often tie football’s tales of corruption and greed to its current popularity and revenue potential, and we have vague notions of a halcyon time—before the new College Football Playoff, power conferences, and huge TV contracts. Perhaps we conjure images of young Ivy Leaguers playing a gentleman’s game, exemplifying the collegial in collegiate. What we don’t imagine is a game described in 1905 as “a social obsession—this boy-killing, man-mutilating, education-prostituting, gladiatorial sport.”

In The Opening Kickoff, Dave Revsine tells the riveting story of the formative period of American football between 1890 and 1915. In just a quarter century football spread across the nation, captivating people from coast to coast. It was a time that saw the game’s meteoric rise, fueled by overflow crowds, breathless newspaper coverage, and newfound superstars—including one of the most thrilling and mysterious the sport has ever seen. But it was also a period racked by controversy in academics, recruiting, and physical brutality that, in combination, threatened football’s very existence. A vivid storyteller, Revsine brings it all to life in this captivating narrative.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Reading the author’s heavily researched tale of the history of college football—specifically, the period between 1890 and 1915—is like watching an old-fashioned, dramatic movie newsreel…. [I]t is a vivid examination of the sport’s infancy…. Revsine’s descriptions of momentous games and quotes from published accounts give the narrative a storybook feel. He examines how numerous issues and ethical questions during the sport’s early years are still debated today…. An interesting demonstration of how athletics remains today what it was well over 100 years ago: big business.”
—Kirkus Reviews

"Revsine has written a rich and thorough book, backed by ample research. But he’s also a college football fan, who’s served up a tale laced with humor and suspense.”
—The Boston Globe

“Dave Revsine’s work is filled with jaw-dropping, vividly detailed stories about football’s wild, woolly formative years. If you think America’s football obsession is a recent development, or that corruption in the money-driven college game is only a modern problem, you’ll be stunned by The Opening Kickoff. A great read. I loved it!”
—Chris Fowler, host of ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning College GameDay

“With the industry of college football currently at the center of questions about priorities, purity, and purpose, Dave Revsine’s lovingly crafted The Opening Kickoff is a remarkable and engaging account of the heroes, villains, successes, and scandals in the early years of this sport. The passion and the people of those early years, their feats, their foibles—all contribute to this game taking root in the American heart. No other sport matters as much to fans of each team—and Revsine’s keen eye for detail, and clear love of the game make this a fascinating journey through an important time. And with messages that resonate today.”
—Bob Ley, host of ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning Outside the Lines and anchor of SportsCenter

“Dave Revsine’s well-researched book on the early days of football is absorbing from opening kickoff to final gun. The stories are filled with historical romance, yet are not rosy-eyed. It is fascinating to see how all the glories and corruptions of football were there from the beginning.”
—David Maraniss, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi

“Before there was Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, there was Wisconsin’s Pat O’Dea. Before Miami and Auburn found themselves embroiled in controversy, so did Yale and Princeton. Before the endless coverage of ESPN, the New York Sun had seventeen reporters at a game. In Dave Revsine’s fascinating read, The Opening Kickoff, we learn that college football’s nascent seasons were as wild, unpredictable, and controversial as the ones that unfold in front of us now. Revsine’s meticulous research and crisp storytelling bring us back to a long-ago era, where the themes and storylines are familiar.”
—Pete Thamel, senior writer for Sports Illustrated

Library Journal
05/01/2014
While focusing primarily on the eventful, and at times disreputable, career and life of long forgotten 1890s University of Wisconsin football star Pat O'Dea (1872–1962), this book provides a thorough history of the early developmental years of football, from 1890 to 1915. Major rules changes, the evolution of the style of play, and further aspects such as equipment standards and practice methods are outlined; the book also depicts the growth of the game during that period in the West and the South as football expanded its influence beyond its tony Ivy League origins to become a national sport. Journalist Revsine (studio host, Big Ten Network) emphasizes how problems in the sport from that time are echoed by the challenges faced by the game today: violent injuries on the gridiron, the corrupting influence of money, and the conflict between the mission of academia and high-stakes athletic competition. Other recent books covering this era of football have concentrated on the cultural and literary facets of the formative years, making this title distinctive. VERDICT This painstakingly researched and colorfully written book will primarily appeal to devoted students of football history at all levels.—John Maxymuk, Rutgers Univ. Lib., Camden, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-01
Big Ten Network lead studio host and former ESPN anchor Revsine explores how the early days of college football were a lot like the climate of the sport today. Reading the author's heavily researched tale of the history of college football—specifically, the period between 1890 and 1915—is like watching an old-fashioned, dramatic movie newsreel. Though sometimes slow moving, it is a vivid examination of the sport's infancy. Before the rise of collegiate football, strenuous physical activity was regarded as boorish and unimportant, but football quickly "took off" on college campuses in the mid-19th century, especially among Ivy League schools like Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Revsine's descriptions of momentous games and quotes from published accounts give the narrative a storybook feel. He examines how numerous issues and ethical questions during the sport's early years are still debated today, such as whether schools were sacrificing academic integrity for athletic success and monetary reward. As far back as 1894, some worried that profits earned from football were "the curse, if not indeed the downfall, of honest university sport." The $119,000 netted by that year's Harvard-Yale game (over $3 million in today's money) is presently what advertisers pay for just three commercials aired during ESPN's weekly (during the football season) College GameDay broadcast. Just as they do now, schools saw college football as a "valuable public-relations tool—a means of publicizing their university and energizing alumni, which, of course, had further financial implications." Revsine's exploration of this early period underscores how these concerns not only still exist, but are perhaps impossible to resolve with the ideal of a lucrative yet "pure" collegiate sport. An interesting demonstration of how athletics remains today what it was well over 100 years ago: big business.
Forbes
A new must-read book for fans of college football...[a] fascinating look at the origins of the game.
Sports Illustrated
[A] fascinating, well-researched college history [that] shows how money, eligibility, powerful coaches and bad actors corrupt.
Chicago Tribune
[A]n eye-opening and compelling lesson for those looking for the complete story of the game.
Wall Street Journal
[A] stirring survey of malfeasance, meticulously brought to life by Mr. Revsine.... The Opening Kickoff is a first-class account of football's turbulent origins, one that helps explain how a collision sport became the most conspicuous part of American higher education.
Boston Globe
Revsine has written a rich and thorough book, backed by ample research. But he’s also a college football fan, who’s served up a tale laced with humor and suspense.
Pat Forde
[I give] the strongest recommendation possible to The Opening Kickoff: The Tumultuous Birth of a Football Nation.... It is fascinating - the best book [I have] read this summer... Revsine is a wonderful storyteller... If you like football and want to know how to first began its rise to become a national preoccupation, this is a must-read.
The Wall Street Journal
[A] stirring survey of malfeasance, meticulously brought to life by Mr. Revsine.... The Opening Kickoff is a first-class account of football's turbulent origins, one that helps explain how a collision sport became the most conspicuous part of American higher education.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780762791774
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
08/01/2014
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
393,502
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

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Meet the Author

Dave Revsine has been the lead studio host of the Big Ten Network since its inception in 2007. Before that, he spent more than a decade as a studio anchor at ESPN. He lives in suburban Chicago with his wife and three daughters.

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